This paper develops an evaluation of an active-learning pedagogical approach aimed at fostering the formation of self-efficacy beliefs along with learning. Our pedagogical approach exploits the synergy between two powerful pedagogies, such as peer-instruction (Mazur, 1997) and self-assessment, which are simultaneously employed to produce learning-gain and confidence-gain in the classroom. In particular, we focus on the role played by the teacher, and we investigate to which extent students develop their confidence: (i) from direct exposure and practice with the learning material, and (ii) from the support received by their teachers.
The most recent pedagogical literature has registered an increasing number of contributions attempting to measure the learning acquired by students in Higher Education over their course of studies. Whilst the Organisation for Economic and Social Development embraced a process of ‘assessment of learning outcomes’ (OECD, 2014 and 2011), the American and British approach focussed more tightly on the concept of learning gain. Within this context, the debate investigates metrics based on student performance taken at distinct points in time over a student’s educational journey (McGrath et al., 2015). However, while the concept of learning gain focusses predominantly on measures of student attainment, little attention has been devoted to other important dimensions of learning, such as student self-assessment skills (Taras, 2015; Henderson and Harper, 2009) and student self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977 and 1997; Pajares, 1996). We argue that students’ ability to reflect on their performance, and form positive beliefs on their educational experience, represents an important catalyst to learning, which should also constitute a learning objective in its own right (Ritchie, 2016). Positive self-efficacy beliefs can support self-regulation behaviours (Zimmerman, 2002), as well as student motivation (McMillan and Hearn, 2008).
In previous research (Aricò and Watson, 2015), it was demonstrated that the combination of the self-assessment and the peer-instruction pedagogies can augment student learning, and develop students’ ability to correctly assess their performance, increasing their self-efficacy beliefs. A further contribution (Aricò, 2016), also highlighted a consistently strong and positive association between learning gain and confidence gain, showing that students who improve the most upon their performance, also report higher self-efficacy levels. However, none of these contributions were able to single out the role played by the teacher, and the effect of his/her direct influence on the process of formation of students’ self-efficacy beliefs. To address this issue, we re-consider Bandura’s (1977) seminal contribution, where –amongst the most effective ways to develop self-efficacy beliefs- he identifies the concepts of mastery of experiences, and vicarious experiences. Applying Bandura’s framework to the field of education, the principle of mastery of experiences implies that an experiential learning approach (Kolb, 1984) –where students are granted higher degree of independence exploring, experimenting, and practicing, as means to develop new knowledge- is one of the most successful ways to foster their self-efficacy beliefs. At the same time, according to the vicarious experiences principle, self-efficacy beliefs can also be enhanced, even though to a lesser extent, when students observe a more experienced or knowledgeable agent, such as their teacher, while s/he demonstrates how to make use of a given body of knowledge (e.g. to show them how to solve a problem).
In order to operationalise our investigation, we consider two variants of a very similar learning and teaching algorithm. In the first variant, students record their self-efficacy beliefs after receiving a demonstration from their teacher. In the second variant, students record their self-efficacy beliefs before receiving any instruction from their teacher. According to our hypothesis, if student self-efficacy levels are significantly higher in the first variant, the teacher plays an important role in the process of confidence-building in the classroom.
Aricò, F.R. 2016. Learning Gain and Confidence Gain as Metrics for Pedagogical Effectiveness: an empirical assessment within an active learning large-classroom environment. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, Dublin. Aricò, F.R., and Watson, D. 2015. Peer-Instruction Unveiled: Measuring Self-Assessment Skills and Learning Gains in a Large Flipped Learning Environment. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, Budapest. Aricò, F.R., and Watson, D., 2014. Assessing Self-Assessment: another argument for Blended Learning. Paper presented at the Society for Research in Higher Education Annual Conference, Newport, Wales, UK. Bandura, A. 1997. Self-efficacy: The Exercise of Control, New York: Freeman. Bandura, A. 1977. Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying theory of Behavioral Change, Psychological Review, 84, 2, 191-215. Henderson, C., and Harper, K. A. 2009. Quiz Corrections: Improving Learning by Encouraging Students to Reflect on their Mistakes, The Physics Teacher, 47, 9, 581-586. Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Mazur, E. 1997. Peer Instruction: A User's Manual, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs. McGrath, C.H., Gurein, B., Harte, E., Frearson, M., and Manville, C. 2015. Learning Gain in Higher Education. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR996.html. (Accessed 14/01/2016). McMillan, J., and Hearn, J. 2008. Student Self-Assessment: The Key to Stronger Student Motivation and Higher Achievement, Educational Horizons, 87, 1, 40-49. OECD. 2014. Skills beyond School: Testing Student and University Performance Globally: OECD’s AHELO. Paris: OECD. http://www.oecd.org/edu/skills-beyondschool/testingstudentanduniversityperformancegloballyoecdsahelo.ht. (Accessed 14/01/2016) OECD. 2011. A Tuning-AHELO Conceptual Framework of Expected Desired/Learning Outcomes in Engineering. OECD Education Working Papers 60. Paris: OECD Publishing. Pajares, F. 1996. Self-Efficacy Beliefs in Academic Settings, Review of Educational Research, 66, 4, 543-578. Ritchie, L. 2016. Fostering Self-Efficacy in Higher Education Students. London: Palgrave. Taras, M. 2015. Student Self-Assessment: what we have learned and what are the challenges. RELIEVE, 21, 1, ISSN 1134-4032. Zimmerman, B.J. 1995. Self-Efficacy and Educational Development.in: Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies, edited by A. Bandura, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zimmerman, B.J. 2002. Becoming a Self-regulated Learner: An overview. Theory Into Practice, 41, 64-70.
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